Understanding the parts of an axe is super-helpful knowledge to have in your arsenal. It’ll help you understand the lingo when you’re looking around for the right axe to buy. Throwing in a few of these terms into conversations will also make you look like some kind of axe guru.   

Remembering each axe part is easy as the names refer to human body parts. Keep reading to get the essential list of axe terms – consider it an ultimate crash course for learning the anatomy of an axe. 

Tip: Be sure to check out our guide on how to select an axe that’s right for you.  

What are the different parts of an axe?

Although axes vary depending on their type, they all have a head and a handle. The axe head has a bit, toe, heel, beard, cheek, and butt; the axes handle comprises an eye, knob, throat, belly, shoulder. 

The anatomy of an axe

1. Bit

Part of axe: head

The axe’s bit is the cutting edge, also known as the blade. Most axes sold in stores are single bit, but there are also double bit axes that have blades on both sides of the head. 

The bit is an important part of the axe that will “make or break” the cutting power of the tool. A common practice over the centuries has been for blacksmiths to use stronger steel to make the bit. It’s the business end of the head and needs to withstand high impact.  

2. Toe

Part of axe: head

The toe is the top corner of the axe’s bit. It is this corner that axe throwers attempt to hit their targets with. When chopping wood, think of the axe’s blade as the bottom of a foot. The heel lands first followed by the toes. Some people believe it’s called the toe because that’s the body part reckless woodsmen usually chop off.

3. Heel

Part of axe: head

At the opposite end of the blade from the toe is the heel. Located at the bottom corner of the bit, the section can come in handy for detailed chopping and carving. The heel may be in line with the rest of the head, forming a straight line to the handle. If it extends below the rest of the head, it means the axe has a beard. 

4. Beard

Part of axe: head

The beard, or hook, is the concave section at the bottom of the head which starts at the handle and ends at the heel. Not all axes have a beard, while some varieties like the broad axe have a long beard. It’s a useful feature to have if you need a wide cutting surface without too much extra weight added.

5. Cheek

Part of axe: head

The cheeks are located on each side of the axe head. They are smooth and come in a range of inclines. You’ll find it easier to chop with sharper wedges but the tradeoff is that they’re less durable. An axe that has a less sharp incline won’t have the same chopping power but is better at other jobs like removing small branches or bark from a felled tree.

6. Butt

Part of axe: head

The butt, or poll, is the back section of the head found only on single bit axes. It is usually a wide flat area that is useful for hammering. Take care of the butt and only use it for lower impact jobs. Driving in stakes and wooden objects is okay but never hardened steel splitting wedges.

7. Eye

Part of axe: handle

The eye is the hole in the axe head that allows the handle to be connected. It is found in the center of the head to provide optimal balance. It is an important part of the axe and is also a weak spot that is a common reason axes need to be repaired.

Keep in mind that not all axes have an eye. Some manufacturers produce all-steel products that are all one piece. Composite handle axes also attach the handle differently.   

8. Knob

Part of axe: handle

At the opposite end of the handle from the eye is the knob. It is often designed to flare out a little to help stop the axe from slipping out of your hands. 

9. Throat

Part of axe: handle

The throat is a section of the handle, or haft, that nears the knob. It is located roughly where the grip is found. Whether you need an axe for competitions, yardwork, or throwing, throat design plays a big role in comfort as well as durability.

Some axe brands have a straight throat while others are concave. When choosing an axe, pay close attention to this area as a poorly made throat will result in tired, sore hands and wrists.   

10. Belly

Part of axe: handle

The axe’s belly is a long front section of the handle that starts in the middle and ends near the axe head. Some bellies are straight while others may have a convex curve. A good-quality wood handle will be free from knots and have a nice straight grain. 

11. Shoulder

Part of axe: handle

The shoulder of an axe is part of the handle, located next to the head. Many will have a prominent curve in this section but some are straight.

To get maximum control, position your dominant hand just below the shoulder. You’ll lose power, but gain a high degree of accuracy. 

Commonly asked questions

What is the handle of an axe called?

The handle of an axe is also known as a haft. Although hafts have been crafted for centuries out of wood, they are now made from other materials like composite materials or steel.

What part of an axe is the grip?

The grip of an axe is the best location to position your hands when swinging. The throat of the handle is where the non-dominant hand is positioned near the end; the belly is neared the head of the axe and is where the dominant hand is positioned.   

What is the head of an axe?

The axe head is the entire steel portion that is shaped as a cutting tool or mechanical wedge. At one end is the sharpened blade while the other end is the butt which is usually flat.   

Summing up

For a simple tool, there are a surprising number of axe parts. We’ve created this guide to illustrate the basic makeup of an axe, but you’ll find there’s more to this tool than what’s listed on this page.

It’s also important to understand that parts vary depending on the type of axe and brand. For example, an axe that’s all-steel won’t have an eye; double bit axes won’t have a butt.

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